Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Green Light Sigh

So Lorde's latest hit song Green Light is great, but that's not what concerns us here, at least not directly. Indirectly, maybe.

But first, what we're concerned with here is this green light sigh from that tedious English guy in response to Melbourne's recent move to install recognisably female road-crossing signals alongside the recognisably male symbols that have been the norm there, here and everywhere since roads got busy and governments decided they needed to encourage people to cross them with care.

Admittedly, men probably needed more help to know when to cross a busy road and when not to than women did (and do), but still. We mustn't assume that. We must assume that men are as capable of careful crossing as women.

I think the fact that this move in Melbourne came in early March just after the release of Lorde's new single was probably a happy coincidence, but you never know. Women are organising our efforts better than we ever have done before, and Lorde is one of the most outspoken feminist role models for strong, smart and feisty young women of her generation. It was also the day before International Women's day, so that might have been a factor too.

But whatever else, the timing is clearly a reflection of the feminist fourth wave we are currently riding that seeks to challenge the small and big biases in public life that continue to endorse the male as primary and normative and position the female as other and secondary - if present at all.

The traffic signal changes were funded by community groups and businesses, not tax payers, and have only switched six male signs to female signs so far, so it's a fairly small step for equality. But it's a significant step even so, or it wouldn't piss off men like Morgan, although he and his ilk are a touchy lot.

More unfortunately it has also pissed off some women; indeed the 'feminism at its worst' comment that was the basis of the Telegraph article in Morgan's tweet, came from a woman. Sigh.

Of course there are plenty of women who don't identify with dresses and we women have fought for the right to wear trousers, after all. But surely you don't need to like wearing dresses to see that the traditional symbol is masculine and to know that it went unchallenged all these years because men were considered to be the norm by those people, invariably men, who got to decide what went where in the public (if not the private) sphere.

The bias was so pervasive it would have been unconscious, so these men who set up the signs would have just said 'we need a sign to show people when to cross' and that sign would have been made in the shape of a man, without 'gender' ever being mentioned. Same goes for the male pronoun standing in for 'people' for so many centuries of the written word.

Unfortunately that's not a luxury women (feminists) have. Signs and stories never have been and never will be unconsciously made in our image. So we have to make conscious changes and many changes seem small but are significant because those bigger changes, like the right to vote, to work, to choose, to wear trousers, etc, are made up of all these smaller changes that gradually, and often unconsciously, shift attitudes about who we are and what we need to be and do to be happier as people one and all and less in conflict with each other.

So I say this is feminism at its walking best. It's not a giant or even a small leap, to be sure, but it is a safe step in the right direction.

Walk with me and you will see that we can be as one free; that just came to me in a fabulous feminist flash. I think I feel a song coming on, I will call it 'Walk with me.'

PS: Just found out that Wellington, NZ had installed suffragette Kate Sheppard images for eight of its road-crossing signs earlier this year, not to suggest it's a competition between Australia and NZ. Far be it from me to do that!

However I think I prefer Kate's retro dress. Just saying (and that NZ was first to grant women the right to vote).

No comments:

Post a Comment